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Imagine a talented and impressive contender for your job. Will they want to do the job differently? Will they have better ideas about how it should be done? Will they be able to deliver better results?  During November tens of thousands of us will find out just how this feels as our roles are taken over as part of the Takeover Challenge.

If you haven’t heard about the Challenge before, you ought to have! A Twitter thunderclap last week reached over a million people and it’s been trending on social media at regular intervals ever since. The Challenge has also been widely covered in the media and there is more to come…

The Takeover Challenge, now in its ninth year, is all about children and young people across England taking over adult decision-making roles.

The Takeover Challenge is a great opportunity for children to see how organisations work on the inside. They get to see things from the perspective of the decision-maker and get to make real decisions in the role. Last week a young person worked with staff to propose new budgets for an authority. Many organisations report how they have benefited from the fresh perspective young people have brought. Young people can challenge the established way of doing things and bring new ideas – often which will be shaping a much more child-centred approach. The experience itself is unlikely to be forgotten and it can also inspire children to develop new skills and consider new career opportunities.
My own role was taken over by nine-year-old Aayushi who did a brilliant job stepping into my shoes at a Social Mobility Commission’s report launch, clearing my press lines and going to Number 10 during the course of the day!

Her Takeover was one of six Dream Takeovers organised in partnership with Children’s Newspaper First News, which hundreds of children and young people applied to take part in. These have seen children get the chance to take over Sky News presenters, a match day organiser at Manchester City, a costume designer on West End musical Wicked, and be an explainer at the Science Museum’s new interactive WonderLab gallery.

As well as businesses, local authorities, emergency services and arts organisations’ Takeovers, Whitehall has been getting involved. This year more than 100 children are taking over the top jobs in Government – including more than twenty Secretary of State, Minister and Permanent Secretaries roles in 14 departments. Along with Whitehall and Dream Takeovers, the BBC will soon have new stars on air, writing scripts and putting on shows. On top of all that, more than eighty local authorities are making young people CEOs and directors of services. Hundreds of schools are also involved in this year’s Challenge.

The Whitehall Takeover Challenge is especially noteworthy as the hundred children and young people taking over were all in care or have care experience.

Although many looked after children who I meet are well-supported high achievers who are challenged and supported by the adults responsible for their care to do their best, there are many who don’t get the chances, breaks or support to get the start they need on the career ladder.

Despite improvements, the persistent high representation of care leavers who are not in training, education or employment is a continuing cause for concern. This is sometimes because children leaving care need more support to overcome the emotional and psychological consequences of neglect or abuse, given the kind of help they need to flourish as adults – or encouraged and steered towards reaching their goals.

I want to ensure that these children get a chance to think big about their futures and have their voices embedded into the very machinery of Government both nationally and locally.

All children have hopes, dreams and ambitions. By better supporting some of the most vulnerable around these, and taking closer note of their views and wishes, we can help them make the most of their undoubted talents and potential.

I am hugely grateful to everyone who is taking part in Takeover Challenge. And it’s not too late to get involved. Find out more and sign up here or start planning now for 2017.

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